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Embedded modules are small devices that can be integrated into larger systems to perform specific functions. They are popularly utilized in different applications like industrial automation, robotics, medical devices, smart home, and IoT. Embedded modules offer advantages such as low power consumption, high performance, and scalability.
However, as the demand for more complex and sophisticated embedded systems grows, so does the need for smaller and more efficient embedded modules. In this article, I'll be discussing some of the smallest embedded modules that are expected to work in 2023 and how they can enable new possibilities for embedded system design and development.
1. xPico Wi-Fi Module
The xPico Wi-Fi module from Lantronix is an extremely compact embedded Wi-Fi module that is among the smallest in the world, measuring just 24 x 16.5 x 5.8 mm in size. It serves as a complete device server and provides wireless LAN connectivity, as well as full IP and WLAN stacks, for any design that features a SPI, USB or serial interface. It is also equipped with unique features such as simultaneous Soft AP and client mode, zero host load, and configuration by customization.
The xPico Wi-Fi module is an excellent choice for M2M and IoT applications that require high performance, low power consumption, and robust networking. It is based on the Cypress® WICED™ Platform and supports IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi standards and WPA/WPA2 security protocols. It also has a built-in web server, a device discovery utility, and a configuration manager.
2. NVIDIA Jetson Xavier NX Module
The NVIDIA® Jetson Xavier™ NX module is a powerful and compact system-on-module designed for edge computing. It is only 69.6 x 45 mm in size and comes with a 260-pin SO-DIMM connector. This module features a 384-core NVIDIA Volta™ GPU with 48 Tensor Cores, a 6-core NVIDIA Carmel ARM® v8.2 64-bit CPU, 8 GB or 16 GB of LPDDR4x memory, and 16 GB of eMMC 5.1 storage. It also supports up to 6 cameras, 2x 8K video decode, 2x 4K video encode, 2 multi-mode display ports, and various interfaces such as PCIe, Ethernet, USB and GPIO.
The NVIDIA Jetson Xavier NX module can provide a maximum of 21 trillion operations per second (TOPS) of accelerated computing performance, allowing it to execute advanced neural networks simultaneously and handle data from multiple high-resolution sensors. This makes it ideal for high-performance AI systems such as commercial robots, smart factories, medical instruments, smart cameras, automated optical inspection, and other AIoT embedded systems.
To write code for the NVIDIA® Jetson Xavier™ NX module, you have several programming languages and tools available to choose from. Python is the most popularly utilized language for programming this module, as it offers an extensive range of machine learning and AI libraries that are optimized for NVIDIA hardware. Additionally, you can use C++, CUDA, and TensorFlow to develop your applications.
3. Toshiba TC35680FSG Module
The Toshiba TC35680FSG module is an incredibly small Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) module that measures only 3.3 x 7.8 x 0.9 mm in size. It is based on the Nordic Semiconductor nRF52832 SoC and supports both Bluetooth 5.0 and BLE functionality. Additionally, the module comes equipped with a built-in antenna, crystal oscillator, and flash memory.
The Toshiba TC35680FSG module can operate in either user application mode or host mode, depending on the firmware configuration. It can communicate with other BLE devices and sensors, as well as smartphones and tablets. This module is ideal for a wide range of IoT applications, including wearable devices, healthcare devices, smart home devices, and others that require low power consumption, small size, and wireless connectivity.
4. ESP32-PICO-D4 module
The ESP32-PICO-D4 module is a compact system-in-package (SIP) that packs in a 4 MB SPI flash memory, crystal oscillator, filter capacitors, and RF matching links into a single device. It is equipped with a dual-core 32-bit Xtensa LX6 microprocessor, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, along with a diverse range of peripherals.
With dimensions of only 7 x 7 x 0.94 mm and a 48-pin QFN package, it is a space-saving option for IoT products that require wireless connectivity. The ESP32-PICO-D4 module is based on the ESP32 chip and is compatible with IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi standards, Bluetooth 4.2, and BLE functionality. It also offers a low-power mode and an LDO regulator for efficient power management. This module is ideal for wearable electronics, medical equipment, sensors, and other battery-powered applications.
5. MikroElektronika MIKROE-3512 module
The MikroElektronika MIKROE-3512 module is a compact device that houses a Microchip ATSAMD21G18A ARM Cortex-M0+ microcontroller with 256 KB of flash and 32 KB of SRAM, making it a high-performance and efficient solution for embedded applications. Measuring only 2.6 x 15.0 x 8.0 mm, it is incredibly small and portable. The module also features a USB interface, a reset button, and three LEDs that make it easy to monitor its operation.
The MIKROE-3512 module is compatible with the mikroBUS™ socket, which provides access to a wide range of compatible sensors and other devices. This makes it easy to create custom projects and integrate other hardware components as needed. You can program the module with the Arduino IDE, a popular and widely used development environment that simplifies coding and makes the development process faster.
6. Arduino Nano
The Arduino Nano is a small and compact board designed to be breadboard-friendly, based on the ATmega328 microcontroller. It offers almost identical functionality to the Arduino Duemilanove, but in a different package. One of the only distinctions between them is that it doesn't have a DC power jack and instead uses a Mini-B USB cable. With 14 digital I/O pins, 8 analog input pins, 6 PWM pins, and a built-in LED on pin 13, it provides a wide range of options for developing and prototyping projects.
The Arduino Nano can be powered through the USB connection or an external power supply and supports various communication protocols such as UART, I2C, SPI, and PWM. You can program the Arduino Nano with the Arduino IDE or other compatible software tools. The Arduino Nano is among the smallest embedded modules in the Arduino family, measuring only 18 x 45 mm and weighing a mere 7 grams. Its high performance, small size, and low power consumption make it an ideal choice for developing and prototyping embedded applications.
Embedded modules are essential components of many modern systems that need low power consumption, high performance, and scalability. As the technology advances, embedded modules are becoming smaller and more efficient, enabling new applications and challenges for embedded system design and development.